When my Mom first became ill with Parkinson’s disease, there
was a constant struggle to figure out what to do with living arrangements and
her finances. Whether it was a friend, neighbor or a stranger, someone had
something to say and advice to give. It was relentless! There was always a question of what to do with this unsolicited advice and what we should say to those who gave it.
Should we say thank you? Should we get angry? Some of the
advice we received was from those who had never been in our situation. Our
heads spun with constant chatter permeating our daily existence as to how to
best help our mother. We realized that most people who gave this advice had great intentions and did not mean any harm. In the beginning we would just say
“thank you,” or sometimes just walk away. It ate away at us, adding to the
stress of just trying to help our mom cope with her disease. Our mom was in her
early sixties when her condition became obvious to others, and had a disease that
many assisted living facilities and nursing homes were ill prepared to contend
with. Some of the advice was based on loved ones being in their eighties or nineties (Mom’s began in her fifties), or not having Parkinson’s disease.
My mom, sister and I went to family therapy to learn some ways in which to deal with all of this. Some people say that when a family member has a disease, the whole family has the disease. After the three of us were able to come to terms with my mom’s wishes and what was needed, my siblings and I were better able to handle the well- intended advice.
We wanted to be strong in order to be there for our mom. After we figured out what was best for our family with our particular situation, we were then able to deal with others. We thanked others for their advice, but let it stay at a distance. We were able to let others know what we were doing with conviction, without apprehension about their reaction.
The bottom line is this. People are people. Everyone has an opinion. They think they know what is best even though they are not in your shoes. And you want to listen, because you appreciate their concern. But a lot of the time it’s best to keep unsolicited advice at bay, and not feel that you need to listen to everyone. Remember that most people only want to help because they care and have good intentions.